In 1963, two West Road residents, Gene Bond and Alfred Gilbert, united by a love of Dorset and its history, founded the Dorset Historical Society and supported it actively for a number of years until it became firmly established. For the first thirty years, meetings were held in the Dorset Church Vestry. As historical artifacts were donated to the Society, it was a challenge to find places to store and exhibit the collection. Some were stored in the public library, some in the small building adjacent to Peltier's (now the Dorset Union Store) and eventually the Society moved to the unused Fire Department building next to the Post Office.
An early member of DHS was the artist, Elsa Bley, one of the founding group of the Southern Vermont Artists, who also served as a director of DHS. While actively pursuing her own art work, she also gave art lessons to children and other members of the community. At the end of her life in 1990, she gave her house to the Historical Society, which bears her name.
The new housing for the Society provided it with vastly greater display space, meeting space, storage space, a conference room, and office space. The renovation of the house, which was in considerable disrepair, was achieved through fund-raising, extraordinary volunteer dedication, and collective public spirit of local businessmen, contractors, and individuals. In August 1991, DHS moved into its new home.
By 2005, however, it was clear that a constantly wet basement and dampness were endangering the collection, and steps needed to be taken to improve the environment.
The entire collection had to be moved temporarily offsite while the 170-year-old house was raised, a new cellar hole dug 35 feet further down the hill, a new concrete foundation poured, and the house repositioned on its new foundation. Today it is a temperature and humidity-controlled, warm and dry facility. Bley House Museum welcomes visitors from many locations. (With thanks to A. W. Gilbert, Jr.’s research for the 30th Anniversary in 1993)
The ceramics shown here are hand painted and custom designed for the Dorset Historical Society’s 50th anniversary by Roseanne Henning of Rah Earth Pottery in Arlington. Rosanne is a former student of the Elsa Bley. They will be for sale in our gift shop.
Flat ornaments: $10
Round globe ornament $20